Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Americans And the Tragic Sense

I was listening to NPR tonight and heard the host of "On Point" make reference to 9/11 and to Ground Zero with the implication that the destruction of the Twin Towers was the sum and total of that day's horrors.
I murmured to myself, "There were THREE Ground Zeroes."

Which reminded me of my growing awareness that talk of Hurricane Katrina is almost entirely limited to grieving the loss of New Orleans. When was the last time you saw a special about the Gulf Coast of Texas, or about Biloxi? This concerns me. Hurricane Katrina did a lot more than just smack the bejeezus out of New Orleans levees.

Americans don't have a sense of the tragic and therefore can't contain the tragic. They like tragedy to be something they can see and undrerstand and limit, preferably with a logo and a theme song. It is this limitation, I think, that makes Americans diminish enormous tragedies by re-membering them as occuring in one location which can be reduced to one iconic image. This is exactly what we've done with 9.11 and with Katrina. Twin Towers falling, ash everywhere. People being taken off a roof by a helicopter. Boom, we're done.
If we can pinpoint the one place It happened, we can tell when It's all better and fixed.

That's all I can say now, although I wish I could flesh this thought out more. Perhaps you'd like to do so for me in the comments?


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